Can I Get My Criminal Record Expunged In Virginia?
Carrying a criminal conviction on your record can be detrimental to your life. Criminal convictions appear on background checks for work, housing applications, and permits to own firearms. Filing petitions for expungements in Virginia can clean your record, but only under certain circumstances.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has very strict laws concerning the expungement of criminal records. While the scope of Virginia expungement laws is meant to help alleviate some of the hardships of having a criminal record, it does not always work out to the benefit of the individual. Speaking to an attorney about your case can help give you the best understanding about your legal rights and options to remove harmful criminal records from your background.
Sealing criminal records in Virginia
In Virginia, the final disposition of a criminal charge determines whether or not you may have it expunged from your record. Generally, if you are convicted of a crime in Virginia, you may not have the conviction removed from your criminal record. Arrest records may be expunged if the defendant is found not guilty or otherwise have the charges dismissed.
In assault and battery cases, defendants may be able to avoid criminal penalties and have arrest records expunged if the judge hearing the case deems a civil settlement between the defendant and victim is acceptable. Victims must sign letters and appear in court acknowledging to the judge a civil remedy was agreed to by the victim and offender. These settlements do not apply to assaults on law enforcement or cases of domestic abuse.
First time offender expungement in Virginia
Unlike other states, Virginia does not have any statute granting criminal record expungement to first time offenders. Even first time offender programs for crimes related to drug possession, domestic abuse, and alcohol associated crimes do not allow expungement.
First time offenders found not guilty may have an easier time getting their criminal record expunged than someone with prior convictions or charges. These programs often require the defendant entering a guilty plea, which otherwise bars him or her from expungement eligibility.
Virginia courts do have discretion to challenge petitions for appeals, even if the defendant was found innocent. Defendants with no prior charges clear of a misdemeanor offense are eligible for expungement unless prosecutors can show the court good cause to deny the request.
I’ve been wrongly convicted, can I have my record expunged?
Virginia law does provide remedy to persons the courts acknowledge to have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. In cases where someone else committed a crime under your name, you are eligible to have the charges dismissed.
Additionally, if your conviction was later overturned on appeal or you were otherwise acquitted, you may petition the court for an absolute pardon to clear your name. Virginia has several different types of pardons but only absolute pardons make individuals eligible to have their records expunged.
Virginia criminal defense attorneys
In Virginia, even if you are found innocent of a crime, your request for expungement may be denied by prosecutors. Prior criminal convictions may sway the court’s disposition. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to help your expungement petition is an important consideration defendants should consider.
The attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, P.C. regularly represent clients facing criminal charges and can help negotiate with prosecutors to help defendants avoid jail time and file petitions for pardon or expungements. Contact our office for a consultation about your case.